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How I avoid being one of the new farmers losing the farm  RSS feed

 
Marianne Cicala
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It's been a tougher week than most, hearing from 2 "next generation" clean permie farmers that are throwing in the towel, broke and broken.
I want to throw out some things that we've done on our fairly young homestead/farm that may be helpful.

I keep tabs on "Profit Per Square Foot" aka what generates the most produce in a square foot vs taking up a square foot for hardly any money.  Here's a great example:  I will never grow cabbage, except in our personal garden.  It takes up almost 2 feet and generates $2 at best or $1 per square foot.  Spinach, which gets continually harvested, generates close to $10 per square foot.  I keep that in mind when planning the next season's crops.

I did get Certified Organic and later Certified Biodynamic.  Why?  Why not!  If you are practicing permaculture, you're certainly beyond organically grown and having 3rd party guarantee aka USDA Certified Organic label allows you to enjoy a premium for your hard work, which you're already doing.  It is NOT that expensive since ever year for the past 6, we've filled out the 2 page grant that repays us 75% of our certification costs, which means we pay approx $200 per year and that is easily recouped with the premium that our crops generate.

Before I participate in a farmers'market, I check out all of the vendors' goods.  In VA, nobody needs another yellow squash or better boy tomato, but there are few Cert. Organic Growers and I'll steer clear of veggies that are too common at a market. We bring lots of herbs, dried herbs, packaged meals of produce with a recipe and heirloom varieties of everything with plenty of samples to taste.  Meals in a box or bag is a BIG trend and it's easy to kick that one in the ass with a meal in a bag that's just been harvested and packaged from the person that grew it all!

I always have a sign up sheet for our "Weekly Foodie Email".  I send out an email every Monday afternoon with a list of everything available that week (on an excel spreadsheet) that people can simply check what they want, email back to me and it's bagged up and taken to the market. There are 2 markets that we only take preorders to, no other fresh produce since there are more than enough produce being offered.  It's a huge attention draw when our table is filled with only bags with name tags. It also let's us depart from the market after 2 hours vs hanging out for 4. Obviously this is prearranged with the market manager and our spot is easily and quietly broken down and left.  We also have "0" waste of harvesting too much and being plagued by the late bargain hunters that only play 1 grower against another.

We also start a lot of veggies & herbs for the farm and include lots of veggie/herb starts at the farmers' market.  Live herbs are a great seller with no downside because if they don't sell, we simply plant them on the farm, although the bulk always sell.  We put together herb pots with a pre-planted variety and salad bowls with salads and herbs.  We also include art/crafts from the farm - so that it's far more than boxes & boxes of veggies.  1 of our interns is great with a camera and has boxed note card (thank you Vista print) that are pictures taken from the farm, another makes herbal body scrubs (again stuff from the farm), another is a great woodworker and makes great boxes for our dried herbs etc.  These things draw attention.

We give 5% discounts to VETS & College students.  I do not post a sign, but I ask when they approach our booth.  College students are my favorite since they  they are more concerned about good food than a budget.  They are BIG fans of the Dinner in a Bag option.

If you intend to generate some cash for whatever, it is a business.  Operate it as a business, knowing what makes you money and what does not.  If you aren't familiar with running profit/loss sheets, just go to your local college since most offer FREE business plans and accounting help.  It's lousy, but it'll let you know what to grow and what not to grow aka what's making you money and what's costing you money.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Do you have a sense of the specific problems the young farmers faced or what mistakes they made which caused them to fail, and how others might avoid those same problems?

 
Marianne Cicala
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Yes. 1 jumped in with both feet and a mortgage. Spent so much on timbering, earthwork, fencing and soo many animals. He and his wife grew beautiful produce but new to livestock at that level. I guess "start small" wasn't appealing. Some cows got ill, gardens forgotten, CSAs unfulfilled.....
The second did pay cash for land, but didn't have a solid plan. He went in 10 directions none getting enough attention to be dependable: natural building, classes for natural building without completed projects, market garden without regular market participation, building his home, then divorce, then came a mortgage but no focus or direction. Both really talented n good people, but no solid plan.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Thanks.  Number 1 I think is a common mistake, what I call "animaling-up" - the new farmer gets a crapton of animals which then proceed to use up all funds on housing, fencing, and feed

A mortgage on land is a scary thing.
 
Rufus Laggren
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Marianne

Slightly curious.  When you started out, did it feel like a gamble like roulette or a risk like when taking a rough road you had mapped to get somewhere?

Makes a difference. I think I know the answer but don't think it hurts to be clear...


Rufus
 
Marianne Cicala
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Ha, old enough not blindly gamble or crap shoot; young enough to love the challenge of a bumpy road.😊 Boy it can be bumpy!
 
Casie Becker
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I wonder if a better name for this topic would be "How I avoided being one of the new farmers losing the farm". I love seeing topics like this because I'm not a market gardener. Other people succeeding at market gardening makes finding quality food easier for me, without turning my hobby into a second full time job.


edit Loosing to losing
 
Marianne Cicala
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I agree & it's changed~  I was just so sad for these people, who busted it and didn't reach out to anyone until it was too late.
 
Casie Becker
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When you grow things like cabbage do you have extra starts of those kinds of low value produce that you sell for other people to grow in their gardens?  I was out of town during the time I would have been starting things like broccoli, cabbage, and a second run of winter squash, this year. So I've been keeping an eye out for any of these available in the local nurseries.

Maybe not for your area, but in my area all most plants actually do better in the fall garden than the winter garden. On top of that, most people don't remember to start their plants during the dead center of our summers, so I think there's a real opportunity there.

All that seems to be available are tomato and pepper plants, except a couple zuchinni and yellow squash I saw at Home Depot. I might even give in and pick those up, even though I don't have the same trust in their varieties as I do from the local companies.
 
Marianne Cicala
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It is so interesting how different places are - we are just beginning to sell fall/cole crops.  yes we do sell plenty of fall veggie slips including broccoli and cabbage which we only put in our personal garden vs on the farm, but they sell very well at farmers' markets.  Strongly recommending folks wait until next week to put in fall gardens.  nothing much grows here in the winter, other than the garlic and onions that I use as cover crops.  Can't imagine anyone selling squash this late in the Mid atlantic.
 
Casie Becker
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At this point we should be just finishing getting the last of the winter squash transplants in the ground. We would have been starting the seeds in late July through about mid August.

This is also the time we can start putting our cole crops into the ground, through October, maybe early November if it's a warm year. They grow through the winter here as long as we remember to cover them during the rare freezes.

The were actually discussing this exact issue on a local gardening program Sunday. In particular they were describing how people who move here from Northern climates are used to pulling out their seed catalogs at the same time as we're planting.  Tomatoes started indoors for instance are planted late Jan thru Feb for the first season. At the same time, I've eaten the last of my fresh fall tomatoes after Christmas.

Texas has it's gardening challenges, but the more I listen to other gardeners around the world, the more I appreciate what I work with. I can't imagine being unable to work in the garden for months at a time due to winter weather.
 
Marianne Cicala
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This is how we roll in VA~  hahaha
I-m-gardening.jpg
[Thumbnail for I-m-gardening.jpg]
 
Tracy Wandling
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This is such an important conversation to have. So often, enthusiasm and youthful energy can be transformed into 'throwing in the towel', and I hate to see it. I think a lot of the young people are torn between living the 'Permaculture lifestyle', and making money. They haven't figured out how to do both; or that it is okay to do both. That is what I have seen happen a couple of times. The kids want to live the natural life, but don't include a solid money-making scheme because they think it goes against the 'lifestyle'. But then they suddenly realize that they actually need money in order to set up the farm, or the homestead, or the urban garden, or whatever their venture is. Or that they need money to live on until their systems are up and running and providing them with food or farm income, or whatever it is they are working toward. It is really sad to see.

I myself am disgusted with the 'money system', and the hold it has on our society. But I also know that in order to live in this world, you very often need money.

I have watched some great videos about 'Permaculture business' by jack spirko, and was pretty inspired. He puts things into perspective really well, and offers a lot of helpful business information. This is the one I watched. It might be helpful to some.

Hang in there!

 
Marianne Cicala
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If they keep in mind that the world IS so much better because of Permaculture, the work they are doing and other earth friendly habits.  The only way to truly make a difference is to make sure they are still at it vs ending back where they didn't want to be @ a 40 hour cubical job.  The only way, in my opinion, to keep on doing great things is to make sure the business side supports it.  I've had interns on our farm tell me that I'm working FOR the system.  I just smile and let them know I've spent decades making certain that I'm working the system; it's not working me - BIG DIFFERENCE
 
Deb Rebel
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Doing Farmer Market just be very sure of your state's cottage laws. I live in one of the two states in the country with very draconian cottage laws. Our extension office spent years building up a Farmer's Market and downstate came up this year in April and shut down ours and the one in the next county too. The fact they actually came all the way up here in the boonies meant they kept checking, they were serious about enforcing the laws... which the biggest hangup was consumable food... This means anything like jellies, preserves, salsa, etc; MUST BE prepared in a licensed and certified 'commercial kitchen' and you can NOT hand out ANY samples (including a fresh picked strawberry or grape). I tried to put together a private one and my insurance company refused to cover any liability claims or issue me a separate policy for it. So it didn't happen (I have empty land I could have let people park on and sell). Sigh. One fellow got a grant for a Ttape/landscape plastic truck garden (three years, they come in and lay the stuff new every year, this was his second--nobody heard about it until too late and they gave out 34 of 150 available) and they went to hassle him too. He was doing 'pick at time of sale' on a third of an acre and they had to come see if he was selling any finished food or handing out samples!!! He said unless he gets the grant again next year is his last. In this ramble just trying to point out, my idea of farmer market went down in flames...
 
John Polk
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you can NOT hand out ANY samples (including a fresh picked strawberry or grape).

I know a lady in the midwest who said that her farmer's market doesn't allow any sampling.
(State or County law)
She used to slice one watermellon for samples.
She was told that if she handed out any, she would be banned from the market.

 
Deb Rebel
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John Polk wrote:
you can NOT hand out ANY samples (including a fresh picked strawberry or grape).

I know a lady in the midwest who said that her farmer's market doesn't allow any sampling.
(State or County law)
She used to slice one watermellon for samples.
She was told that if she handed out any, she would be banned from the market.


http://forrager.com/laws/ helps sort at a glance about restrictions, and of course, refer to your own state for details about your laws. I'm in Oklahoma and they are pretty draconian. As of March 2015, I purchased a kindle copy of "Homemade for Sale" How to set up and market a food business from your home kitchen" by Lisa Kivirat & John D. Ivanko . It really helped me navigate what I could or couldn't do and how to look up my state laws, as well as a lot of good advice on how to go about it (selling food and other things at Farmer's Market).

I am in Oklahoma, downstate wants to encourage farmers to add truck farm acres to sell produce at the big city farmer markets (aka Tulsa, Edmond, Oklahoma City, etc) but all they want to see is fresh produce. Nothing handed out, and nothing prepared in any way, unless you make it in the aforementioned licensed commercial kitchen.

Getting back to topic, it is a great income stream if you can produce more than you need, definitely. Just make sure you check and jump the hoops before you make the plans and plant the plants and seed. It sure killed my 2015 and 2016 plans when I did the research then the state sent someone up to kill our Farmer's Market, and kept checking. I have to admit my acres are within city limits which gives me other restrictions (aka no goats and having chickens is hard) and I do have some other income but. As long as I garden I would like to turn something from that, other than what I and my family need. I'm turning to it AFTER getting the property sorted. I grew up with lots of farm animals and yes, if you're not very familiar with it, setting up with animals for meat/milk/eggs/manure/hair is daunting and not cheap either. OVER EXTENDING one's self is where a lot lose it and lose their stake (land, critters, etc). I will ask, when you set up on the land, can you float yourself for five years of zero income (aka your planned income stream is NOT returning and may be bleeding you to boot) plus all your initial startup costs? If not you may have a tricky time in staying. Even ten can be iffy.

I've see more than one cycle (starting in the late 60's where I grew up, in another state) of where farmers have been just getting along and have a year of bumper wheat and good prices (unheard of $8/bushel wheat At That Time), and overextend by getting new machinery, land, etc; then losing it when the next few years were poor. Or when some of the land values started to rise and so did taxes and father wanted to retire and try to pass the farm to a son (or daughter) and the son loses it within 5 years even though dad stayed and injected funds back into the operation (that he got from the selloff). And both ended up losing.

I've been here over 10 years, I expanded to the land I have in the last few. I'm having to really watch it, as though I have my land it strapped me out and I will be working on it for probably another decade to get it where I would like it. (Improved to where it has to be, plantings in and thriving, water, fence, outbuildings, other structures, and returning income) Very good topic.
 
Tracy Wandling
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Food Sovereignty is becoming a more and more attractive proposition. These initiatives would not only enable people to access the food they want and need, it would enable farmers and market gardeners to grow and market their produce in a way that they can deliver excellent food, and make a sustainable living. I'm all for Food Sovereignty!
 
Deb Rebel
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In some large food market stores (I.E., Whole Foods) some products have a label telling how far away the food was grown, so if someone wishes to choose 'local grown' they can see how far the stuff has travelled to get to the shelf. If the consumer adopts that attitude then their food will become more regional and seasonal again. (remember when bananas were seasonal, not available year-round? Or fresh strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, etc?)
 
Ed Farmer
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The only time I have ever felt real stress is when I've owed money. It'd be very hard to start my homestead if I owed anything. I can't imagine trying this with debt and having to work off property. On the other hand, who in the right mind tries doing this after they turn 65?
 
Tyler Ludens
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Deb Rebel wrote: I will ask, when you set up on the land, can you float yourself for five years of zero income (aka your planned income stream is NOT returning and may be bleeding you to boot) plus all your initial startup costs?


To me that looks like only independently comfortable people can become farmers.  Basically, that is a gentleman farmer.
 
Deb Rebel
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Deb Rebel wrote: I will ask, when you set up on the land, can you float yourself for five years of zero income (aka your planned income stream is NOT returning and may be bleeding you to boot) plus all your initial startup costs?


To me that looks like only independently comfortable people can become farmers.  Basically, that is a gentleman farmer.


Nope I know some that are true gentleman farmers, they have plenty and it doesn't matter if they're succeeding or not. Their bills still get paid and they can afford if something doesn't produce. In fact I'm farmsitting right now for one, they went on vacation and I go to their farmstead twice a day to do the chores....

A five year plan helps you be realistic, on the what-ifs and can help you from doing too big a bite. In my first ten years here I went from a third of an acre to two, and some foundation planting has been occurring. Some of that has matured and is now producing. I'm into the second ten years; and still don't have an income stream to depend on, or a totally steady reliable harvest. The project this weekend, I saved up for some really good mylar and will be building a new solar oven, to try a few designs before I invest in a wood frame metal one. I want a trackable box style, and to build a standing slanted tray dehydrator. The latter I'm collecting wood for.

You don't have to have clear land, clear and full tools, home already waiting for you and $100,000 in the bank to get started with permaculture, but. What is your backup if your first year harvest goes sideways, someone's health has issues, or you flood to the rafters, the tractor blows a major widget, etc? I'll still mention that bit of 'over extension' that can come back to bite you hard. As the original poster of this thread said, they met two that didn't plan well enough and jumped in too deep too early, and weren't ready when things didn't quite go right or went into too much expense. Frugality helps and so does some what-if-ing before hand... my first five years didn't go anywhere near according to plan and neither has the second.

You can succeed, look at a lot of permies on these forums, look at the ant village at the Lab. The Lab Ants have some real advantages, in that there are more like mindeds around them, and they have pooled resources to make it, plus the generosity of a number of very kind others (things like tools, other supplies, the cart, etc) that help out. That's a real bonus. Had I not already invested all this time and effort here I might have very well shown up at the Lab and taken up a spot also and tried. That is something that can really help; support. The base of shared knowledge on this forum is incredible. You can learn and hopefully avoid the mistakes that can prevent you from succeeding, as well.
 
Tyler Ludens
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Deb Rebel wrote:
Nope I know some that are true gentleman farmers, they have plenty and it doesn't matter if they're succeeding or not. Their bills still get paid and they can afford if something doesn't produce.


To me that looks a lot like not needing an income for five years. US poverty level for a family of two is $16,020 per year.  Times five years is $80,100.  Not "$100,000 in the bank" but not too far from it.

Deb Rebel wrote:
You can succeed, look at a lot of permies on these forums, look at the Ant Village at the Lab.


None of the ants are making a living as a farmer.

 
Deb Rebel
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Tyler Ludens wrote:
Deb Rebel wrote:
Nope I know some that are true gentleman farmers, they have plenty and it doesn't matter if they're succeeding or not. Their bills still get paid and they can afford if something doesn't produce.


To me that looks a lot like not needing an income for five years. US poverty level for a family of two is $16,020 per year.  Times five years is $80,100.  Not "$100,000 in the bank" but not too far from it.

Deb Rebel wrote:
You can succeed, look at a lot of permies on these forums, look at the Ant Village at the Lab.


None of the ants are making a living as a farmer.



As for $80k ... I have lived on less than that in even recent times. What I'm trying to point out is can you survive for five years? If you're moving out to mostly off or totally off the grid, you still need shelter and food, and any bills you still need to take care of, for that long to give it a good shot at building what you need to continue to live and thrive after that. My mother is living on a little more than $3500 a year. She is not off grid and she's not permaculturing but. How much you need is relative.

Then as for the ants... No but they are doing permaculture actively and they are doing a lot better at it than I am at present. And they are living on their income.

The two are not mutually exclusive, running a full family farm is not what the original poster is about. What they seem to be about, is that they've managed the transition and survived at being able to live as they chose, and not lose the works. Plus develop an income stream. And succeed where others have not, for various reasons.
 
Tyler Ludens
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This thread seems to be about farming, so what I was trying to discuss was the idea which you posted that in order to avoid losing the farm one needs to be able to live with no income for five years, while paying start up costs.  To me, that looks like needing to have a lot of money.

I don't personally equate permaculture living with being a farmer.  I think one can practice permaculture without being a farmer.  But this thread seems to be about farming, so I was thinking you were talking about needing to be able to live with no income for five years in order to be a farmer and not lose the farm.

I suspect there is no-one here on the board who is living with no income for five years, either as a farmer, or as a permaculturist.  But that's just a guess!

 
Deb Rebel
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Tyler Ludens wrote:This thread seems to be about farming, so what I was trying to discuss was the idea which you posted that in order to avoid losing the farm one needs to be able to live with no income for five years, while paying start up costs.  To me, that looks like needing to have a lot of money.



My intent is that if you are going to try this you need to hang in for at least five years. And eat. And live. If you start a business for example, and are going to float a loan, you need to consider LIVING as well for at least that first year. A lot don't consider that so they may have enough to start up, but while they are building their business they lose it because that pesky bit about needing to eat, a place to sleep, etc, gets in the way. Often for a business it takes five years for it to surge ahead and stay afloat. If you are going to 'farm' and also produce an income stream, you are starting a business. It's going to have issues and snags you never dreamed about. Even if you are just going to produce enough for yourself, it takes beyond a year to get it to happen, and at the front it is too easy to go too deep too fast, spread self too thin (whether it is your time, your finances, or pushing ahead without the backing (tools, supplies, equipment) and the other infrastructure needed-the fences, sheds, well, etc) and thus, overextended, you lose the grip and lose the whole thing.

The Homestead Act of 1862, gave 160 acres to someone over 21. If you planted 10 acres of trees, you could also get a 'tree claim' or 320 acres total per person. You had to do certain improvements and live on the land (for example, build an 8'x12' house upon the land as well). In the 1970's some people moved into federal lands in Alaska and filed under that act, including CUTTING DOWN 10 acres of forest and planting 10 acres of trees for the tree claim. A few managed to stick out the five years and were given their title; the government closed the Act down when people started to file under it, but several had legal claims started before then, and they did fulfill all the requirements. In Antler, ND; they were about to lose their school and a farmer, Bud Kissner, offered a version of homesteading. Write him an essay and he gave a grant of some land, put a house on it and live there for five years, and he would deed you the property. A small village of mostly trailer houses sprang up, I think 13 families showed up and moved in (a few just showed up without doing the essay). ONE completed their five years. The school still ended up closing.

This is where I came up with five years. Also from my experience here where I've tried to set up on my own ranchette. My first five years I was still acquiring the land (a piece at a time). I started planting foundation plantings. It's been a lot slower and more expensive than I thought. I finished the second five years 'behind schedule' but still eating... and am working on the third five years.
 
Emily Smith
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Well this thread has made me feel better for starting out with micro-baby steps.   

And I agree with Tyler...to do this full time with no additional input does sound like needing a LOT of financial security.  Or loads of backwoods skills plus land to use them on, in an area that won't arrest you for using them.    For people who are barely out of the suburbs and tied to county utilities, there needs to be something coming in during any given year.

RE: commercial kitchens...so you need a separate commercial kitchen in order to process anything at all?  Can you give away processed stuff?  Like yogurt or soap or whatever?  I guess that doesn't help the income bit, but just curious how deep the paranoia went.
 
Deb Rebel
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Emily Smith wrote:Well this thread has made me feel better for starting out with micro-baby steps.   

And I agree with Tyler...to do this full time with no additional input does sound like needing a LOT of financial security.  Or loads of backwoods skills plus land to use them on, in an area that won't arrest you for using them.    For people who are barely out of the suburbs and tied to county utilities, there needs to be something coming in during any given year.

RE: commercial kitchens...so you need a separate commercial kitchen in order to process anything at all?  Can you give away processed stuff?  Like yogurt or soap or whatever?  I guess that doesn't help the income bit, but just curious how deep the paranoia went.


Baby steps are okay as long as they go in the direction you want.

Here, no samples unless fully packaged as a 'trial size'. With full labeling and disclosure. <sighs>
 
Marianne Cicala
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Emily Smith wrote:Well this thread has made me feel better for starting out with micro-baby steps.   

And I agree with Tyler...to do this full time with no additional input does sound like needing a LOT of financial security.  Or loads of backwoods skills plus land to use them on, in an area that won't arrest you for using them.    For people who are barely out of the suburbs and tied to county utilities, there needs to be something coming in during any given year.

RE: commercial kitchens...so you need a separate commercial kitchen in order to process anything at all?  Can you give away processed stuff?  Like yogurt or soap or whatever?  I guess that doesn't help the income bit, but just curious how deep the paranoia went.


Check with your local health dept or extension office.  In VA, as long as  your goods have a label somewhere stating that the product was not made in a commercial kitchen or inspected by the Health Dept. you are fine.  You cannot sell processed or end goods to restaurants or a store for resale, but you can certainly sell at farmers' markets, off of your farm or if you own a business.   Samples are certainly allowed if, once again, there is a card or something noting that it was not made in an inspected commercial kitchen.

I believe that this is nation wide, not just VA and falls under the Farm Bill Act..I'll check on that thought.  As a farmer, you can get your home kitchen certified, which as long as there are no pets ever in that area and it's incredibly clean and you package less than 10,000 pieces, you are fine.  Most communities are putting in or have "Canneries", a place that you can rent or hire them to make your end products.  You can also talk to a local restaurant about using their kitchen after hours, but you have to get an application completed along with exact recipes and where your source the ingredients.  A health inspector will probably observe you making whatever it is that you make.  When you get into raw milk products like yogurt, it gets pretty dicey, soap on the other hand, since it is not intended to be ingested is easy and you can certainly ship your body products wherever.  I cannot ship my end edibles out of state.  
 
Crystal Hochstetler
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I don't know about some of the national laws, but I do know that the state laws vary.  My husband and I are from Virginia originally.  We have a number of friends and family that do farmer's markets.  One was an older couple who processed chickens in there own kitchen -nothing commercial about it.  It was certainly not new either.  We moved to South Carolina and wanted to get started with market gardening, but especially baked goods as the income stream would be a lot quicker and larger.  We ended up not doing it, but we would have needed a separate, approved kitchen, not our personal one, with I believe,  a grease trap!?!  For baked goods only!  We would not have been allowed to cook anything.  Technically melting butter would have put us over the top and then we would have needed a commercial hood as well.  We worked with DHEC in figuring this out and they certainly weren't discouraging us.  We had a great relationship from the restaurant we had been running.  -And we made the effort to be nice, because initially my husband could have strangled somebody for their ridiculous nonsense.   We ended up getting into real estate and now just talk about market gardens in a dream kind of way.  We have moved across the line into Georgia and their they have cottage food laws where you can cook in your own home, but I'm not sure on all the details.  I have an aunt in Indiana who would rent a commercial kitchen to bake pies, cakes, and breads to market as they were not allowed to do it at home to sell.
 
Ryan Hobbs
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We are working on getting land at the moment, but we plan to have our main crops be the very lucrative timber bamboo and green tea that are all the rage lately. Their cultivation and harvest are simple, and good quality tea goes for between 6$ per hundred grams and 8$ in our area (works out to $4 per sq ft once established, and $8 once full size). Premium tea goes for very much more depending on processing method and estate reputation.  since tea and bamboo plants are pricy to buy, we were planning to buy one of each of the 4 varieties we chose to grow and propagating from cuttings and seed over a course of several years. In the meantime we were planning to grow a variety of heirloom herbs and vegetables for the local Asian community who are currently paying through the nose to import them. We know the owners of several restaurants and grocers who we could supply in the Columbus, OH area. We plan to get the certifications for UsDA Organic and Ohio Proud. This ties into my current occupation of making teaware for export to Japan. I would continue to do this in the times when other work to be done is slow or non-existent such as during the winter. I can make 10 yunomi (tea cups) per hour and sell them for 12$ each for example. I can make 7 sake sets in the same time, each with 3 guinomi (little cups) or sakazuki (saucer-like cups) and a tokkuri (bottle) and sell each set for 26$. We have already made considerable profits on a small scale in suburbia. And we will be sure to not fall into the animal trap because we're vegans.

Does this sound pretty solid or nah?
 
Joseph Lofthouse
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Ryan Hobbs wrote:good quality tea goes for between 6$ per hundred grams and 8$ in our area


My eyes glazed over in fantasy imagination about getting rich when I figured out that raspberries sell for $6 per basket. However, there are 250 berries in a basket, which have to be picked one at a time... Once I started picking, it didn't take long for reality to hit and for me to realize that there aren't enough hours in a day to get rich by picking berries. I suspect that picking tea leaves might be similar.

 
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Plus with tea , it is best to use only the tips bit like cutting a hegde and then you have to dry it 
 
Ryan Hobbs
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Joseph Lofthouse wrote:
Ryan Hobbs wrote:good quality tea goes for between 6$ per hundred grams and 8$ in our area


My eyes glazed over in fantasy imagination about getting rich when I figured out that raspberries sell for $6 per basket. However, there are 250 berries in a basket, which have to be picked one at a time... Once I started picking, it didn't take long for reality to hit and for me to realize that there aren't enough hours in a day to get rich by picking berries. I suspect that picking tea leaves might be similar.



The first 3 leaves of a new flush from a tea bush that makes 3-4 flushes of 100 or more leaves at mature size. It is a bit of a job to pick it, but do it long enough and you get pretty fast. And what with the lack of thorns you can do it much faster than blackberry brambles. Also, the usual size of sale is 40 grams to a tin for about $3.50 for premium teas like Gyokuro or Maccha. Konacha and houjicha are at the low end of the spectrum for about $2 per 40 grams for hand picked or much cheaper for mechanically picked. Does it make a ton of money? No. Does it make enough by itself? Probably not. But that's where the Bamboo and ceramics come in. I could easily support myself with just ceramics. Tea just happens to be a major interest that can bring in some more money and greater stability through diversification.

Plus with tea , it is best to use only the tips bit like cutting a hegde and then you have to dry it


Actually, you use the first 5 leaves if you are making black or oolong teas, and the first 3 for green tea, and the green stems for my favorite tea konacha (a light and refreshing tea commonly served at restaurants so that the tea does not overpower the food). What tea is best is that which is brewed expertly. A master brewer can turn the naturally shed leaves from a camelia hedge into a worthy drink for kings. I do not profess to be one such person, but I'm aware of the process for tea tasting and how to adjust it in the future.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I like potatoes, because I  can plant them and then do nothing. Harvest about $100 per hour, until they run out.

Two years ago, I tried harvesting Himalaya berries and managed $40 per hour. About 30 American.

I've only had a few brief forays into market gardening and harvesting. Most crops don't pay so well on the small scale that I've tried.

Pick your own, is a good model for crops that require hours at harvest.
 
Deb Rebel
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Dale Hodgins wrote:Pick your own, is a good model for crops that require hours at harvest.


Pick your own can also lead to a lot of plant damage and the pickers eating a lot of fruit before they get to the scale. There are very few honest berrypicker kids, they will eat a lot.

Even at places like the M&M's mall stores, or 'pick your own' candy places, a lot graze heavily on the way to the till. They can't weigh YOU to figure out how much you ate... and really gauche, they will be eating right out of the bag as they wait in line for the clerk.
 
Dale Hodgins
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I second Tyler's comment about getting too many animals. I have known people who planted themselves on a relatively unproductive patch of land, and then proceed to acquire more animals than that land could carry. They are caught in a cycle of feed purchase and animal care. This makes it very difficult for them to travel away for work if necessary. It can be financially crippling, which won't help you on your way, no matter where you think you are headed.

I have some nice growing beds that I don't see very often. There are deer and rabbits running around everywhere. Therefore, I plant them to potatoes and garlic. Those things produce a perfectly good crop in my absence. I can go and make a living elsewhere and I have no living creatures to babysit.

I will get some animals, when I become semi retired, and live at the farm on a more regular basis. Even then, I expect to mostly go with poultry, that can free range and look after themselves for quite a while, without starving. With good housing, and ponds to drink from, I don't expect that they will wander away. There's nowhere to go.  I'm surrounded by forest that contains creatures that they should be afraid of. Poultry can be grown as an annual. I expect to purchase young ones, let them eat food that they find, all summer, then feed them a little bit, before putting every one of them in the freezer for the winter. I like the idea of having animals on the farm, but they must serve me. I don't want to constantly serve them.

We have a definite winter season, in Canada. I would like to work with that season, and not put a lot of my time into keeping animals over winter. There are many full-time farmers, who are perfectly willing to supply young poultry in the spring. It should be possible to do this with chickens, ducks, geese and turkeys. You need a big freezer. When I was a kid, my dad raised cattle as an annual. He bought young bulls in the spring, and slaughtered them, when the grass slowed its growth in the fall. He had a full-time job away from the small farm, and didn't want the expense or responsibility of keeping these creatures through the winter. We had 17 acres of marginal land, but we always had plenty of beef.

For anyone just starting out, who must maintain a full-time job off site, this may be a more practical way to begin with livestock.
 
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2017 Rocket Mass Heater Workshop Jamboree - 15 workshops in one event
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